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Ex-Police Chief Charged in 10-Year-Old Homicide

April 15, 1988

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ The former police chief of Marlow was charged Friday with second-degree murder, a month after authorities dug up the remains of his wife’s first husband in his yard after his father made a deathbed confession.

Robert Chambers, 36, appeared relaxed but said nothing as he surrendered at the state police station in Keene and sat through two court appearances in the 1978 killing of Russell Bean, a close friend. Unable to post the $200,000 bail, he was taken to the Cheshire County Jail.

Chambers was not handcuffed during his arraignment in Keene District Court and bail hearing in superior court. He entered no plea, but his attorney, Mark Sisti, said his client will plead innocent to the charge, which he called a mistake.

Bean was 25 when was last seen in 1978. His wife, Sylvia, moved in with Chambers and married him soon after her husband disappeared. After Bean’s remains were found last month, she and Chambers separated.

Chambers’ sister, Melissa, came forward March 10, the day after her father died. She said in affidavits that Clifton Chambers, 61, told her that his son came to him 10 years ago and said he accidentally killed Bean in a fight, and that the father helped his son bury the body with a backhoe.

Authorities dug for three days in a spot that once was a pig pen before finding Bean’s remains 25 feet down. Chambers resigned as the town’s part-time chief.

He also took a leave of absence from his job as part-time chief of nearby Gilsum and was suspended without pay as a trainee with the Winchester police department.

Attorney General Stephen Merrill announced the arrest at a news conference in Concord. He said Chambers was not charged with first-degree murder because there was no evidence of premeditation.

Merrill said further charges related to concealment of a corpse may be filed, but that he anticipates no other arrests.

If convicted, Chambers could be sentenced to 30 years in prison without parole, Merrill said.

While Chambers is held at the county jail he would be separated from other inmates to protect him from prisoners he might have arrested as a police officer, said the attorney general.

Merrill said he expects the defense to challenge the elder Chambers’ ″dying declaration″ as inadmissible hearsay and anticipates having the issue settled by the state Supreme Court. New Hampshire law allows so-called dying declarations to be admitted as evidence in certain cases.

Although acknowledging that without the dying declaration Bean’s body may never have been found, Merrill said investigators have enough evidence after interviewing 15 to 20 people to convict Chambers even if his father’s declaration is not allowed in court.

An autopsy showed Bean had been beaten with a blunt instrument. Merrill declined to say whether a weapon had been recovered, what physical evidence there was or whether there had been witnesses.

Maj. Donal Anderson, who headed the investigation, said Bean’s disappearance had not been treated as a crime in 1978. He said his investigation showed that Bean and Chambers ″had an altercation, which indicates there was bad blood.″

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